They say a Dog is Man’s Best Friend, and with good reasons too. You might think that owning a dog has made you more responsible as a person, and has also helped you overcome loss a lot better. But did you know that your four legged companion could also be the reason for your great health? Could it be true that behind every healthy man, stands a loving dog?
While most people who choose to adopt a dog are well aware of the immediate joys and the sense of satisfaction that comes from sharing their lives with their faithful companion, many remain unaware of the immense health benefits that also accompany the pleasure of snuggling up to a furry friend. It’s true; many recent studies have unveiled the scientific reasons why this beautiful bond between man and animal has a direct impact on emotional, physical and mental health.
We all know that dogs are smart; they can be trained to sniff out cancers, find bombs, assist physically challenged and the visually impaired and some specially trained dogs can also alert their owner if an epilepsy attack is on its way. However, those are special cases and special dogs that have undergone extensive training to excel at one particular role. But what about our house pets, our loving companions who share our lives and its joys and fears with us?
When it comes to your health, your dog is playing a very important role. Here’s how:
1. Healthier Lifestyle –
If you are like me and own an active breed dog, you wake up on cold mornings cribbing about the fact that you need to walk your dog. But think about it; all those extra miles you walk trying to get enough exercise for your dog works like the perfect workout for you too! Who said exercise needs to involve going to the gym? Try playing Fetch with your dog, or take it for a run, and you will find a cheap way to stay in great shape!
An Australian survey has shown that those who own a dog are far healthier than those who don’t. They make fewer visits to the doctor every year and are lesser dependent on medication, because they lead a fitter and healthier lifestyle. Another study found that dog owners were 60% more likely to go for walks in their leisure time as compared to those who don’t own pets at all. Another very interesting study revealed that people who want to get back in shape are better off taking their dog for a walk, as compared to finding a walking buddy. And the reason is pretty straight forward – your dog is not going to make excuses for why they want to skip a walk for the day!
2. Allergy Prevention –
Contrary to prior believes dogs are not triggers for allergies. Many people used to believe that if they were genetically disposition towards allergies, they should never get pets in the house. Today a growing number of studies reveal that kids that grow up in a home with a pet have lesser risk of asthma and allergies.
A recent study published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that was conducted by researcher James E. Gern, MD, a paediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reveals that infants that lived with a dog are far less prone to allergies, including eczema, because they have higher levels of immune system chemicals in their blood which is a sign of stronger immune system activation. So if you were convinced that Fido was never the reason you seem to have a persistent cold when season’s change, you are right! It isn’t the hair shed that is causing the problem, it is probably the pollen in the air.
3. Lowering Blood Pressure & Improving Heart Health –
Over the years, many studies have proved that sharing life with a dog helps to lower blood pressure in Hypertension patients. Also, many researchers have found that men who have dogs are less prone to heart diseases because they have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which could simply be a result of a more active lifestyle. You will find that most dog owners are out for a brisk walk early morning and late evening with their faithful companion, and that’s the secret to their heart health too.
Studies also reveal that dog owners have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets; which is why if you are a stock broker or a doctor, getting a dog will be one of the best decisions you made in your life! In 1980, a study found that patients who were released from a coronary care unit had better chances to live a longer and healthier life if they had a dog, than those who didn’t. The reason could be that a dog gives one a sense of responsibility and the will to get better in order to be able to care for it. Also, the unconditional love and affection they shower on their owners can do miracles and fasten recovery, because it truly heals the soul!
4. Better Emotional Health –
Nothing can compare to the joy that the sight of a wagging tail can bring when you walk through the door every evening after a tiring day at work. For most dog owners, the highlight of their day is the loving way their pet greets them, making them feel like the most important person in the world. Playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
Addicts looking for a quick-fix turn to drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, while a perfectly healthy alternative would be to snuggle up to your dog or to play with it! It uplifts the mood and brings about a feeling of contentment without adversely affecting your health. It has also been found that pet owners who suffer from AIDS are far less likely to be depressed, because they do not feel lonely or isolated. Most pet owners talk to their pets, some even use them to work through their troubles and their unconditional love works as the best support system to get through troublesome times without having to find a professional psychologist.
5. Helping Meet New People –
We all know that emotional health comes from having a good network of friends and close knit family members. A dog offers the perfect way to meet new people, working like a ‘social lubricant’ for their owners. Young men with dogs are far more likely to be asked on a date, and young married couples in a new city will find a way to make new friends within their first week because someone or the other will approach them to pet their dog! For the aged, there can be no better companionship than a dog. It gives them a reason to step out every day, walk a few steps more, undertake a few more tasks independently and hence keeps them active by letting them find a sense of meaning and joy in an otherwise sedentary life. In fact, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio actually asks all clients they cover over the age of 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening. And those who have a dog are more likely to get a better medical cover!
6. Stress Management –
There is nothing like a lick-fest to relieve your tired muscles and nerves! Being around a dog – be it playing with it or simply snuggling next to it, has prove to bring down heart rate, blood pressure and offer sensory relief. Those who suffer from chronic pain also benefit by the company of their dogs as it elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. Additionally, because dogs require a regular routine of feeding, washing, grooming and exercising on schedule, it helps to add structure to your lifestyle and hence keeps depression and loneliness at bay.
So you see, you have a lot to thank your dog for! And the next time you want to curse your pooch for running around the yard with your newspaper, you might want to remember that he is probably doing you more good than you are doing him, and chasing after him to retrieve your newspaper will only help you burn a few more calories for the day!
This article includes a lot of personal insights from me, along with a lot of research done online to quote studies and research data. As the proud mommy of 2 very lovely dogs, I strongly believe that my girls are a big reason for my health and fitness, which is what inspired me to do this article in the first place.
- Walk the dog, pet the cat – it’s good for your heart (cbc.ca)
- Danielle Hark: 12 Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Mental Health! (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Health Benefits of Owning a Dog (jaymedaniels.wordpress.com)